Vietnam is working on a universal health care system. The government says that this plan will cover all Vietnamese people, but will it be for the best. The National Health Security Office (NHSO) secretary-general Dr. Winai Swaasdivorn says that “Vietnam is going to send officials to Thailand to study how the health-insurance systems are working,” in order to create a secure government-run health care system for Vietnam. The government is intently studying Thailand’s health care system to model theirs after it—Thailand’s health care system currently covers 48 million citizens.
The government plans to cover everyone under the system, however, not all conditions will be covered. Everyone must be covered under the government system, which means that there are those who will be vulnerable to the system because of pre-existing conditions, or a family history of extremely devastating medical conditions. Despite this, authorities have are convincing each other that the benefits outweigh the lack thereof.
Vietnam’s current health care law does not require all citizens to be covered, but the government is looking to change that. The population of Vietnam is about 88.57 million, of whom only 30% are forced into compulsory health care schemes while only 11% are in voluntary programs—voluntary health care programs are obviously more beneficial to the people. This new system in Vietnam would force all citizens to be covered under the universal health care system, even if some would rather be on a private plan with more benefits. Currently, those who don’t have health insurance are just left to fend for themselves while their life or death is no concern of anyone else.
The system the government has come up with is just a government-run health care system NOT a government-paid health care system. This means that each citizen is required to pay an annual fee for health care—a fee which exceeds the majority’s annual household income. Where will these families get the money if this health care system is mandatory? Chances are, they are going to be told not to be so “extravagant” so they can pay for their health care despite whatever vulnerable financial situation they may already be in.
Vietnam tried to create a successful health-insurance system in 1989 but fell short and are beginning to create a new system modeling Thailand’s recent success. In 2003, the Vietnam Social System (VSS) had taken over the health-insurance system from the Ministry of Health and established a Department of Health Insurance in 2005. They are now pushing harder for a successful health care system, hopefully to be completely established by 2014 with the Universal Coverage Citizens’ Health Insurance law. This recent push was in response to the Health Insurance Law that had taken effect on July 1, 2009.
Is this the best thing for Vietnam? Thanh Nhan Hospital vice director Chu Thi Du admits that her hospital has been operating at a huge loss each year. She tells the media that “Last year, the loss was 18 billion dong,” which is $92,355 American dollars. (1) This is in result to being unable to turn away patients who were not covered under any health insurance program. She also states in the same interview that it is because of this that “they have to seek help from the media in publishing their stories so that they can have some donations.” (1)
In a democracy, universal health care is debatable because economics and citizens’ sources of income are not determined by the government. In such a poor country with so many hands tied by the government preventing families to build their own wealth from such a difficult place—would government run health care be best?